Thinking vs Acting – the First Steps to Recovery

first steps to recovery woman thinking

Making changes to your alcohol habits is a massive undertaking. It can take months – years even – to get to the point where you actually stop drinking. And that’s okay, because transformation is a long process and it starts from deep within. Often things can be moving well along in the direction of change before it shows up on the outside.


The first powerful steps to recovery …

On the outside it might look like nothing is going on at all. The booze habit is still present. Full bottles are still going into the shopping trolly, empty bottles are still overflowing in the recycling bin. Hangovers are still coming thick and fast. Anyone looking on might well assume that nothing is happening and no changes are about to be made.


But you should never judge a book by it’s cover. Thinking about change, but not actually doing it yet, is the first powerful step. Changes start from deep within.


The first step in the change process is waking up to the problem and starting to think about it. That small voice inside your head sounding the alarm, the internal dialogue. The worrying, awareness of the negative impacts, noticing what’s going on, concerned that things aren’t good. 


Thinking vs Acting – the First Steps


first steps to recovery birds flying

You are already on your way …


The next step in the change process is getting ready to do it. Reading books, researching online, planning to stop buying and drinking alcohol, imagining yourself avoiding social events, looking up the number of a support group, anonymously joining an online community and lurking for a while. Powerful, powerful stuff. But again – this can all be invisible to the outside eye. The drinking can still be continuing while this important planning step is going on.


All of this growing awareness and planning can take months – years even. It certainly did for me. I vividly remember the point at which I started worrying about my endless hangovers – it was on a car ride to work one Sunday afternoon. A little voice in my head spoke out, questioning whether my habit was actually okay. “I’m hungover again, is this normal?” it said. It was two or three years after that point for me to actually put the drink down. Two to three years during which I continued to drink heavily and habitually. Outwardly you’d have had no idea that I was moving in a powerful direction, but I was.


I was noticing, worrying, wrestling, planning, attempting to moderate and control (not something I was ever any good at), and changing – all on the inside. And all of this invisible, inner work was important and necessary. By the time I finally got to my point of actual change, I was ready and willing. And it worked. 


I haven’t had a drink now for nearly 9 years. And there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for that fact. Grateful that 9 years ago I did the hard work of transforming myself into a sober woman, but also immensely grateful that 11 or 12 years ago I started the inner work that got me here.


So if you’ve been thinking for a while about your habit – bravo. You are already on your way. You’re doing the most important work of all, the groundwork. Laying the mental foundations that your sobriety will stand on in the years ahead. So keep going, keep thinking, planning, being honest with yourself, trusting. Trust that change is possible. Because it is.


after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.